Historic mansion to be enhanced with demolition of old vent stacks
Stabilized by straps, two metal-clad vent stacks extending beyond the roof line are not original to the 1878 Ansel B. Cook House that represents the historic heart of downtown Libertyville.
The stacks are chimneys made of concrete pipe sections wrapped with metal sheets at the joints. While not part of the house itself and not visible when looking straight on, they have stood for decades as an incongruous element associated with what likely will become the village's first officially designated local landmark.
The view will change in coming few weeks when the unused and obsolete 35- to 40-foot tall vents are removed. Demolition and preservation don't always mesh, but the pending work is regarded as an enhancement.
"Ï think it will look a lot better (and) I think most people would agree with that," said Jim Hartshorne, chairman of the Libertyville Historic Preservation Commission.
The village board last week approved a contract for $48,968 to Hezcorp Construction Services Inc. of Libertyville to remove the stacks behind the mansion at 413 N. Milwaukee Ave., and seal the underground portion. The vents tie into one large concrete pipe that runs horizontally underground into the library to the west.
"The stacks were a part of an incinerator that is no longer used and not original to the house," said John Spoden, community development director. "The metal strapping and sheeting that stabilize and wrap the concrete stacks are showing signs of rust and wear and some (village) trustees asked for them to be taken down for safety reasons."
Spoden said the work will be reviewed next week with the preservation commission.
The commission recently designated the building as a local landmark but that isn't official until approved by the village board. Had that already happened, the demolition would have required a certificate of appropriateness from the commission, Spoden said.
Despite exterior alterations, the structure long has been on the federal National Register of Historic Places. The local landmark designation is meant to bring attention to the process of identifying and protecting historic structures in town. A public kickoff meeting is planned in a few weeks.
The Cook house and grounds were given to the village in 1920 to be used as a park and library. Nearly immediately, the one-story front porch was removed, the exterior covered in stucco and the familiar two-story colonial portico added. It served as a library until 1968, when a new facility was built to the west and was connected by a covered walkway.
The house since has been the headquarters of the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society, which oversees the Victorian-style interior and gives tours. The village recently renewed the lease with the society for 20 years at $10 annual rent.
Jenny Barry, historical society president, said the group supports the removal of the stacks as they are unstable, pose a safety issue and have no historical relationship to the house as the Cook family residence or its time as the town library.